I received an email from a Mastery client whose mortgage business was a year old. She was almost in a panic:
“I have a question about Marketing. Right now, I’m doing direct marketing by buying leads and hiring a telemarketing company to make cold calls. I also bought a yellow page ad that cost me close to $500 a month, which I think now was a big mistake. I’ve been approached by a company that wants me to purchase an 8-foot billboard for $350 a month. This will entitle me to 5 billboards for 10 months. I have not done my research, and really don’t know where to start researching billboard advertising. I also have an email company that’s offering me bulk mail on the net… Please help me…”
The best help I could offer was to elevate her thinking from a reactive, Technician standpoint to a higher-level strategic point of view. Her decisions were driven by outside influencers who wanted something from her, and not from an internal understanding of what she actually needed. It was important that she appreciate that there were two main components to Lead Generation: Channels and Messages. She was trying to make a decision based on Channels alone without balancing it with the other half of the equation.
You’ve got to know what you want to know
On our call that week, she reiterated her concern that she didn’t know what to expect in a return on her investment.
“If you want to track and quantify a return on your lead generation investment, you first need to be clear of your expectations. Exactly what do you want to measure?” I asked.
There is no limit to the quantifiable metrics that can be captured, measured and analyzed. Cost per click, cost per sale, cost per lead, and average order value. But these are merely numbers that have little intrinsic value outside the context of what you are actually trying to achieve with your lead generation strategy. It is that underlying intent that will dictate your ultimate ROI. The most relevant measure of a successful marketing strategy is its ability to deliver qualified leads to your door and sustain long-term brand awareness in the right markets.
You’ve got to know who needs to know
So her first challenge was to define and identify her markets. To maximize her ROI (whatever she ultimately determined to be her standards), she needed to achieve a laser-like focus on her target market.
“Push all those offers aside, and think about whom you’re trying to reach and what their lives are like. What do they love? What do they hate? What do they read? What do they believe? What do they really need? And is that what you are promising them? Then you can think more strategically about what form of messenger would be the most credible and trustworthy to them and how you’ll measure the outcome in a meaningful way.”
When she began to slow down and really think about the demographics and psychographics of her past and current customers, a profile began to emerge and she found herself looking at a model persona that reflected her ideal customer. Over the ensuing weeks, we worked on taking that profile and developing a series of guidelines to help her shape and focus her lead generation message. Finally, armed with a clear focus and intent she was able to pare down her list of possible lead generating channels to those that would most efficiently and effectively attract credible attention within her target market.
One breakthrough that came from this research and analysis was the understanding that her target market did not respond well to traditional forms of mass advertising. In fact, her research revealed that relationship, trust, and word-of mouth played significant roles in her customer’s purchasing decisions. This was powerful since she had already squandered precious cash reserves on various types of print advertising, with no apparent results, and was poised to drop more hard-earned money on a telemarketing effort. Instead, she would be able to take her refined message and choose the most appropriate channels for broadcasting that message.
Taking it to the next level
So she began to re-think her overall approach to “marketing” and lead generation in particular. We worked together to determine which activities would lend themselves to quantifiable and useful information and created a channel-selecting tracking sheet for that purpose. Further, my client was able to better clarify and articulate her objectives for creating and widening awareness in her target market, for generating new leads, and for building and strengthening relationships with her past and current customers.
Determining the right medium for your message
As she increased her understanding of her target market, she was able to narrow her channel choices by using the following criteria. The first four are clearly tangible, objective and measurable:
1. Reach: You want a channel that will offer you maximum exposure. A referral from a satisfied customer is a reach of one. A 30-second radio ad at rush hour can reach thousands.
2. Market Coverage: How much of her Target Market will be exposed to this channel? Reach divided by what you know to be your trading area will yield a “percentage of market coverage.”
3. Cost: Obviously this is important, but don’t reject any channels solely on cost before considering its ability to deliver your goals for highly qualified leads. Keep in mind what you may have spent in previous lead generation efforts that yielded nothing.
4. Frequency and Exposure: It usually takes more than one exposure for a new potential lead to “know” you. Consider your channel’s ability to provide regular and on-going exposure.
Besides the objective criteria above, your growing intelligence about your target market’s lives and preferences are crucial in making your channel decisions. Here are some important subjective criteria:
5. The Channel’s Fit with your Market: All the frequency, exposure, coverage, and reach that money can buy is lost if the channel is not part of your target market’s life.
6. Fit with your Company: Does the channel itself fit the image you want to convey about your business? A café may be well served in the weekly free advertiser. Would it present the best image for a title company or financial advisor?
7. Impact: Is your target market likely to respond positively to telemarketing calls? Does their profile fit with discount coupons?
8. Credibility: Here, it’s not the message, but the credibility of the channel itself. Would your ad for self-hypnosis cd’s be more credible to your target market if found in “The New Yorker” or “National Inquirer”?
9. Intimacy: Is this channel really speaking to your customer? Does “friending” your Facebook page strengthen the bond with your prospect or does such a suggestion make them feel overexposed?
Marketing is strategy. It is about understanding who your customers are, how they think and make decisions, and how to position and differentiate your business from the competition. Lead Generation is activity. It is about selecting channels and messaging to reach those customers in a way that is consistent with your marketing strategy. Business owners who don’t understand the difference between Marketing and Lead Generation tend not to do either very well.
My client was beginning to appreciate this distinction, and by taking her time at the beginning to thing strategically about her clients’ needs, she was providing herself with a competitive advantage most business owners deny themselves.